|Smoky Topaz and Quartz
From time to time we get requests from customers for a gemstone called smoky topaz. We have to deliver the disappointing news that there is no such gemstone. People are surprised to hear that, since smoky topaz seems to be widely advertised. How can that be?
The answer is that some less than scrupulous dealers sell smoky quartz -- an attractive but inexpensive stone - under the name of the more expensive topaz. That's not only dishonest, but it fails to do justice to smoky quartz, which is an interesting and unique gemstone in its own right.
There are relatively few gemstones that occur in dark brown or black. There is black diamond, onyx and black tourmaline; and you sometimes see dark brown tourmaline, scapolite and agate. It is a fairly rare and distinctive color.
Smoky quartz is a type of macrocrystalline quartz or silicon dioxide, the part of the quartz family that includes amethyst, citrine and rose quartz. This type of quartz is made up of large crystals which can be distinguished by the naked eye. Macrocrystalline quartz is mainly transparent to translucent, with a vitreous luster.
The color of smoky quartz varies from brown to smoky gray to black. The characteristic color of smoky quartz occurs when rock crystal quartz is exposed to natural radiation from radioactive elements over long periods of time. The process by which the color change occurs is not entirely understood, although it is known that exposure of transparent quartz to radiation can alter the oxidation states of impurities in the quartz structure.
Smoky quartz comes from many sources around the world. A few of the more noteworthy locations include Brazil, the worlds largest supplier; the Pikes Peak area of Colorado, USA, where it is associated with green amazonite; and the Swiss Alps, which has produced many tons of fine specimens.
The popularity of smoky quartz rises and falls with fashion. Recently it has been very popular as a gemstone for its earthy tone and tribal look. Because it is quite inexpensive and easily found in large sizes, it is popular for pendants. It can sometimes be found cut in innovative faceted cuts, as well as in cabochons and carvings. Historically, smoky quartz was the material for the crystal balls used by fortune tellers; and some of the mystique of this distinctive quartz seems to persist to this day.
- First Published: October-22-2008
- Last Updated: October-06-2010
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